The lead up to London Fashion Week felt significantly different this season. Change seems to be in the air. Fashion Scout, the home for emerging designers during LFW, has relocated to a new Grade II listed building after several years at Freemason’ Hall. And the looming threat of a no-deal Brexit is causing anxiety across the industry – the British Fashion Council recently stated that no-deal Brexit would cost the fashion industry £900m. SS20 could be the toughest season most designers have ever faced.
On a brighter note, the cry for more ethical and sustainable fashion seems to be reaching a crescendo. Environmental activist group Extinction Rebellion has staged two protests during LFW, a move I see as very welcome. It’s worth noting that London is home to dozens of designers, including Vin + Omi and Phoebe English, who are pioneering sustainability within the industry. The protests are a timely reminder to think about how we consume clothing, there are several things you can do to move to more sustainable fashion consumption, including supporting independent designers and buying more vintage.
Now that we’ve discussed politics and environmental issues, let’s move onto the shows themselves. Here are my favourite collections from SS20:
Deborah Lyons’ SS20 collection has me yearning for a very British summertime. The languid silhouettes are reminiscent of seemingly endless summer holidays, lazy days stretching out ahead of you forever. It’s a slight step-change for Lyons, who is best known for her signature sleek tailoring. I love the experimentation with restrained volume and puff sleeve detailing.
Soft silks in a watercolour colour palette punctuated with fuschia are counterbalanced with Scottish tartans and tweed, in a partnership with British mills based in the Lake District. A true celebration of British fashion.
This was one undoubtedly of the buzziest presentations of LFW. The presentation space was packed and London’s cool young things were spilling out into the street causing a commotion. This is why London Fashion Week is incomparable; it’s where you discover the raw design talent who will be the superstars of tomorrow.
Designer Ying Shen’s collection is inspired by the power of the cult but I got a distinctly post-apocalyptic vibe. Delicate deconstructed pieces in soft silk and tulle layered and draped beautifully. An evocative collection, I’m looking forward to seeing what Shen brings next season.
On the surface, pushBUTTON presented a haphazard collection with a myriad of references. What on Earth could connect exaggerated rounded shoulders, neon green cycling shorts, frothy pastel pieces and preppy polo shirts?
But…just take a closer look. There are heavy nods to the 80s and 90s silhouettes coupled with a reimagining of our future. Space Odyssey 2020, if you will. Highlights include the dishevelled tailored jackets with oversize silhouettes, rounded peplum pieces and the shorts-trousers hybrid which I’m dying to get my hands on.
Do you know what my spring wardrobe needs more of? Pyjamas that I can wear out of the house. This is exactly what Simon Mo delivers in his SS20 collection and he may just be my favourite designer for this. Inspired by Paul Bogards “The End of Night”, the collection features relaxed, languid silhouettes and pretty blanket and star prints. The vibe is very much day melting into night. The collection features ethereal metallic gauze which resembles angelic halos of light
Also inspired by the impact of artificial light on the environment, it aims to raise awareness of the threats to nocturnal wildlife and humans through light pollution. I adore Mo for consistently using his collections to communicate the impact humans are having on the natural environment.
Yoon Choon Ho is one of the few male designers in Korea who designs womenswear and he recently found himself under fire for designing corsets for k-pop idols. This led to an exploration of how feminism has been expressed across different countries throughout the years, which formed the basis of his SS20 collection.
Taking inspiration from strong, independent women like Annie Oakley as well as the recent Me Too movement, the collection fuses femininity of the past with modern concepts of femininity. The collection features corsets, puffed shoulders and high waistlines, which are reminiscent of Annie Oakley’s era, with shots of neon and sheer fabrics. Extremely covetable pieces from an incredibly exciting designer.
Jamie Wei Huang
As much as I love LFW, the pace is relentless. My week consists of lots of anticipating, running around and queuing, with each show over in the blink of an eye. You barely have time to catch your breath before you’re off to the next. The same can be said of the entire fashion ecosystem, it moves at a frenetic pace.
For SS20, designer Jamie Wei Huang just wants to s-l-o-w d-o-w-n. The collection is inspired by the entire journey of creating and the obsession that comes with it, rather than the final pieces making their way down the runway.
I’m a long-term fan of Wei Huang’s work and adore the concept behind her collection. Slow fashion is a movement I’m behind and I hope there is a growing movement to appreciate the design and craftsmanship behind each piece we buy. Clothes should be treasured.
Vin + Omi
Vin + Omi’s show is often the highlight of the season for me. I’m hesitant to call them designers, to me they’re sustainability pioneers. Since 2004 they have developed 12 sustainable and ecologically sound materials which they’ve showcased in their collections.
This season they unveiled a partnership with none other than HRH Prince Charles. Part of the collection was produced from materials made from nettles sourced from his gardens at High Grove alongside eco-latex produced in a village in Malaysia.
I adore Vin + Omi. They are true visionaries. I admire their innovation and showcasing that sustainability and luxury fashion can go hand-in-hand.
While I adore London for the emerging designers and the effervescent energy they bring to London Fashion Week, I also love witnessing a designer grow from strength to strength. Phoebe English is one of those designers. I remember attending her first stand-alone show for AW12 and I was enamoured with her directional pieces and use of texture.
Over the years, English has developed her aesthetic and established herself as a world-class brand with sustainability at its heart. Ocean plastic is utilised to create nylon for jackets, no virgin polyester or nylon is used and pattern cutters are directed to ensure no fabric is wasted. Zips have been replaced with buttons made from milk protein and natural dyes are used.
Like Vin + Omi, English proves that sustainability can be core to a directional brand. More of this ethos throughout the industry, please.
I left the fashion industry 18 months ago and on the whole, I’ve never been happier. One of the caveats is that I do miss being an industry insider. My office was adjacent to a showroom and about a week before their show, the Toga team would fly in and set up a temporary London office. Usually the highlight of my month, I would get a sneak peek at the collection as well as fittings ahead of the show.
While it feels odd to not have a preview of the collection but the show was so delicious I appreciate seeing it with fresh eyes as Yasuko Furuta wanted it to be shown. This season, Furuta indulged in the process of creating. She acknowledges that fashion itself is an indulgence but wanted to take this a step further by creating pieces as a creative outlet without restriction. The resulting collection takes Toga’s deconstructed tailoring and turns it up a notch, with cut out detailing, maximalist prints and frothy ruffles.
One of my favourite discoveries of this season is the sublimely talented Supriya Lele. A Fashion East and NEWGEN alum, Lele made her stand-alone debut at LFW this season and she has already become one to watch. What makes Lele so enticing is how she uses her collection to explore identity and intersectionality as a British Indian woman.
Though her brand’s signatures include minimalism, sensual transparency and a predominantly monochrome colour palette, I also see a celebration of her culture. One-shoulder crop tops are a modern iteration of a traditional sari top and the sheer top and skirt co-ords are reimagined lenghas.
As a British Asian woman, Lele’s collection and success mean the world to me. To see someone expressing the duality of being a second-generation woman balancing a British upbringing with Indian heritage is really special. The fashion industry is sorely lacking diverse design talent who can interpret traditional Indian clothing thoughtfully rather than treating it as a costume.